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Thirty-six patients with American cutaneous leishmaniasis were randomized to receive intravenous sodium stibogluconate for 10 days at a dose of 600 mg antimony (Sb) per day by one of three schedules: once daily by rapid infusion (A), by continuous 24 hr infusion (B), or in divided doses every eight hours by rapid infusion (C). Patients not cured after initial treatment were rerandomized to one of the other treatment schedules. An additional 19 patients who were not part of the randomized study received standard (STD) sodium stibogluconate treatment (600 mg Sb once daily by rapid infusion for 10 days, identical with schedule A). In the randomized study, the overall cure rate after the first course of treatment was 64%, but was higher for schedule A (100%) than for B (50%) or C (42%) (P < 0.01). Considering all courses of treatment, schedule A was more effective (94%) than B (53%) or C (43%) (P < 0.01). Paradoxically, patients in group A had a higher cure rate than patients in group STD (42% after the first course of treatment and 51% when all courses of treatment were considered). Side effects were mild and well tolerated. Total side effects were more frequent in groups B + C (52%) than A + STD (23%) due to an increased incidence of subjective complaints (26% vs. 10%, P < 0.05) in patients receiving other than once daily rapid infusion. We conclude that giving the same total amount of sodium stibogluconate in three divided doses or by continuous infusion offers no advantage over standard, once daily treatment of American cutaneous leishmaniasis.